Indonesia: Phone calls help reconnect families

17 June 2015
Indonesia: Phone calls help reconnect families
Migrants at Bayeun Shelter, East Aceh, call their families to let them know that they're alive and safe. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Fitri Adi Anugrah

The journey of a migrant can be long and dangerous. Many lose their belongings along the way. But phone numbers of family are often protected – with details carefully written on a piece of paper and wrapped in plastic – so when safely at their destination, migrants can contact their family.

The ICRC, together with the Indonesian Red Cross, provide phone call services for the migrants from Myanmar so that they can reconnect with their family and loved ones.

The ICRC and the Indonesian Red Cross work together to provide phone service for migrants at Bayeun Shelter, East Aceh, Indonesia. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Fitri Adi Anugrah

Seeking safety

Migrants from Myanmar often use illegal shipping services to reach Malaysia and pay a fortune to the smugglers. Instead of arriving at their destination, at times, they get stranded in the middle of the ocean, for weeks or even months.

Food and water are scarce. Some die along the way. Others drift by the waves and land in a foreign country far away from their intended destination. This recently happened in Aceh, Indonesia. Nearly 1,000 migrants were rescued by the local fishermen; now living in temporary shelters.

Restoring family links

Phone call services for the migrants mean they can let their family know that they are alive and safe. This service is prioritized for people identified as vulnerable, such as unaccompanied minors like Salam (not his real name).

It has been months since I left my village, living on the boat. I am happy that I could finally call my family and tell them that I am alive.

Within five days of the Restoring family links service being launched, over 200 phone calls were made connecting the migrants with their loved ones.